So a girl, Hazel (Shailene Woodley), has had cancer for a while now. Thanks to an experimental drug, she’s managed to survive much longer than doctors initially gave her, although she has to constantly wear breathing tubes and can’t do anything even remotely strenuous. Walking up and down stairs requires taking a break. She’s aware of her current situation. Things could take a turn for the worse at any moment. She knows she is not long for this world. We know this is going to be a tearjerking story.
At a cancer support group, Hazel meets Augustus (Ansel Elgort), with whom she is immediately enamored. Why? Because he’s cute, smart, nice, and pretends to smoke cigarettes, making him a bad boy. He lost a leg to cancer when he was younger, although you wouldn’t know it unless he told you. He falls in love with her, two. The two then spend almost every waking moment either together or in communication with each other. But self-aware Hazel doesn’t want to be with him since she knows she might die soon. He doesn’t care, and eventually we overcome that obstacle.
Where does the film lead from there? Well, you can probably take a decent enough guess. You might be wrong, though, as the film does throw a couple of decent twists into the mix. I mean, the plot winds up being filled with clichés, but at least they’re clichés you don’t see coming an hour away. Yes, even with Hazel’s current battle with cancer. You’ll see it when you watch it. Or read it, if you decide to read the book first. The Fault in Our Stars is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by John Green.
It also feels slightly less like your typical “tragic teen romance” thanks to its lead characters. Both Hazel and Augustus are wonderful characters. They’re deep, they’re interesting, and they have a slight twinge of cynicism to them. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. This makes sense, given that, you know, there’s that whole cancer element to the story, but even that often doesn’t stop doe-eyed youngsters overcoming all obstacles through hope and dreams (even if you eventually die before your time).
This doesn’t stop the film from trying to bring out the waterworks, and it does this something like every 15 minutes. There’s a “start weeping now” moment at about that frequency. Even if the film is at least somewhat different from other films of its ilk, it doesn’t resist trying to make you cry. Yes, manly men and women alike, the film wants you to shed more than a couple of tears. And you probably will, too, because of how strong the characters are. It all comes back to that.
Well, that, and how well they’re performed. Ever since The Descendents, critics and moviegoers have been high on Shailene Woodley, and performances like the one she gives in The Fault in Our Stars makes it easy to see why. She brings in both a strong emotional performance and a surprisingly good comedic one, too. That’s a tough balance to pull off, but she does it easily. Ansel Elgort is right alongside her, turning in exactly the same type of performance. They make a great couple — even if it’s initially a little weird to see the brother-sister duo from Divergent play lovers in their next film.
It should be mentioned, too, that the film is lovely to look at. Part of that is helped by the plot eventually taking us to Amsterdam — which allows for a cameo role for Willem Dafoe — but even when we’re stuck in boring old America, the film pops off the screen — no, it’s not in 3D. It just looks great from start to finish. Nobody’s going to see The Fault in Our Stars for its cinematography, but … you could, I guess, is what I’m saying.
One of the bigger issues I had with The Fault in Our Stars was its running time. It runs for just over two hours, and there was some repetition that could have been trimmed. I know fans of the book will be happy that as much that could be included was, but some of this stuff just isn’t necessary. The film occasionally drags. “Didn’t we just do this?” is a thought that ran through my mind at least a couple of times. Take 15 minutes off the running time and you have a much tighter movie.
The Fault in Our Stars is a good movie. If you’re in the mood for teen melodrama that does a few things different from the typical mold that is used for these types of movies, then this is one worth checking out. It works primarily because of its lead characters; they’re interesting, well-written, performed by good actors, and are more aware of their own mortality than most other movie teenagers. It’s too long and the plot is filled with more clichés than surprises, but it’s unlikely that the emotional moments won’t get to you by the time it ends.